by Katie Spring, Outreach & Content Specialist
When 135 dairy farms across the Northeast lost milk contracts in 2021 due to Danone/Horizon leaving the Northeast region, it brought a crisis in organic dairy to the forefront.
Between lost contracts, high feed prices, rising transportation costs, and unfair application of USDA organic standards across the US that leads to lower-priced organic milk coming to the Northeast from the Midwest and Texas, Northeast organic dairy farms are facing pressure from many sides.
Even with the onslaught of challenges, organic dairy farmers play a vital role in a resilient regional food system. As the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership writes, organic farmers build healthy soils, avoid and minimize harmful chemicals, and use practices that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Organic dairies across the Northeast tend to be smaller than the national average, and truly are family farms where generations work and live together and have an immediate impact on the local economy and landscape.
One challenge that the 135 farms who lost their contracts face is the cost of upgrading equipment to meet the requirements of new milk buyers.
While solving the organic dairy crisis requires support from many angles, one immediate need is funding – and that’s one way the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center is stepping in to help. The Organic On-Farm Milk Storage & Handling Grant offers funding to upgrade storage and increase efficiency in milk handling. Open to all organic farms across our 11-state Northeast region, those transitioning to new buyers will be prioritized.
The Organic On-Farm Storage & Handling Grant application is open through February 9th.
Dairy farmers can apply for $10,000 – $50,000 to purchase specialized equipment like bulk tanks, pipelines, and glycol chillers, streamline milk pick-up, increase storage efficiencies and improve milk handling.
Learn more about the grant and get the full application here.